Friday, 13 February 2009

Surreal in Seville

I took advantage of my current proximity on Wednesday to link up with my friend and ICG colleague Councillor Paul Fisher in Seville and to share a couple of hours discussing over a fruit juice or two the demands of councillorship in an environment in which those demands were largely absent (although the e-mails kept a-coming throughout).

Paul’s pleasure, as those who know him will be aware, is to follow the England soccer team to the four corners of the Earth, even when the match is only a friendly. Indeed only a few months ago he found himself being dragged kicking and screaming to Trinidad & Tobago to witness just such an encounter.

On Wednesday, of course, England played (and were beaten by) Spain in Seville, which is a three-hour coach ride from my base here in Albufeira.

It was only the second time I had ever been to Spain. The first occasion was a weekend in Madrid in 1990, when a friend who worked for a travel agent managed to wangle two tickets on the now-defunct Dan Air for £25 apiece (how sad that I should even remember the price!). Seville is very different – warmer, for time of year, and more beautiful other than for a graffiti epidemic that sadly falls outside the jurisdiction of Councillor Barbara Reid and the Hounslow Plan.

Walking in a t-shirt along pedestrianised streets lined by trees packed with oranges induced a sense of the surreal when I thought back to how, just nine days previously, I had tramped through several inches of snow with my daughter Rosie in the early hours to catch a bus which wasn’t running to a school which wasn’t open.

For those rich enough, for it isn’t cheap, visitors can tour the city on a horse-drawn carriage (see above), something I’m sure Rosie in particular would love to do.

Way back in 1929 Seville hosted an Iberian-American Exhibition in which each participant nation built its own "pavilion" of varying degrees of splendour. Those buildings still stand, and although they now serve different functions – one is a bank, another a university – their original purpose is still indicated for posterity. The Spanish pavilion, pictured in part at the top of this article, is particularly huge and grandiose, although architecturally probably not as stunning as some of the smaller Central and South American offerings.

As I write it is my last whole day in Portugal and, as if to rub it in, by some margin the most glorious. I’m not sure quite how the Isle of Wight is going to compete with this.

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